Tourism has taken a major hit in the scenic town of Darjeeling in West Bengal, with the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) spearheading a shut down on Monday over a demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland. Hundreds of tourists are still stranded in the town and nearby areas, unable to move out to other locations because of a lack of transport. Some people, however, managed to reach Kolkata on Sunday and expressed their relief at being able to get out of a tense Darjeeling. Reacting to the crisis, a tourist told ANI, “We are facing a lot of problems right now. People know, since the offices are closed, anything can happen on the streets.
For flight departures scheduled at 3 p m, people are leaving at 6 am in the morning.” He said tourism is the main revenue stream of Darjeeling, and therefore, political parties like the GJM must not hold protests when the season is at its peak. “I would have to think before coming to Darjeeling again,” he added. Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday blamed West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for the ongoing unrest over demands for the creation of a separate ‘Gorkhaland’ state, adding that her ‘meaningless politics’ has fueled the situation.
“Nothing happened for seven years. Now with Mamata Banerjee forcing the Bengali language on the people, the situation has turned bad. She should end her interference and apologise to the people of West Bengal,” BJP leader Rahul Sinha told ANI. Supporting his stance, West Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh alleged that the government was not interested in solving issues being dealt with in the region, adding that the violence witnessed is a result of forced interference by Mamata Banerjee. The two most significant contributors to Darjeeling’s economy are tourism and the tea industry. Darjeeling became an important tourist destination as early as 1860.
It is reported to be the only location in eastern India that witnesses a large influx of foreign tourists. It is also a popular filming destination for Bollywood and Bengali cinema. Tourist inflows into Darjeeling have of late been affected by the political instability in the region. Presently, between 50,000 foreign and 500,000 domestic tourists visit Darjeeling annually if the situation is normal. It is known as the ‘Queen of the Hills’ and in 2015 was the third most googled travel destination in India.